My father loved my mother very much, and he expressed his love by surprising her with sweet gifts. He died more than twenty years ago after a long battle with an unnamed degenerative neurological disease that slowly stole him away from us. The disease robbed him of his fine motor skills, his speech, and so much more.
When his speech was all but gone, he was still able to play some golf, which was one of his greatest joys on the earth. One day, when Mom picked him up from the golf course, my father looked very disheveled and more tired than usual. It took a long time of talking to him and the people he was with at the golf club to realize he hadn’t played golf at all that day. Instead, he walked, shuffling a lot of the way, the two miles to and from a nearby mall to try to buy my mother a piece of jewelry for her birthday. Because his speech was virtually gone, he was unable to purchase what he wanted for her, so the surprise was ruined.
My mom didn’t get a new piece of jewelry for her birthday that year, but the knowledge of that act of love, which came at great cost to my father’s physical strength, was more precious than anything he could have bought her. His sacrificial act revealed the depth of his love for her. When so much else was being stripped away from him, his love for my mom remained and compelled him.
We tell that story a lot in our family. It shows the heart of our father.
Love moved the heart of our heavenly Father to act on behalf of His children. He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to rescue us in love and by great sacrifice. Great love can be talked about, deep passionate love can be expressed verbally or even written down, but love expressed in action proves that it actually exists. Romans 5:8 says, “But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” We know God loves us because of the cross.
God hasn’t called all of us to lay down our lives as Christ did in His death, but He has called all of us to lay down our lives daily in service and love, which requires a different kind of death—death to our selfish nature.
When my father walked to the mall and back to attempt to purchase my mom a gift, He did so because he deeply loved his wife. He found joy and pleasure in serving her that way. It’s easy to love our family and friends, but loving our enemies or people we don’t know is much harder.
In this Advent season, as you reflect and prepare your heart for the remembrance of Jesus’ coming to earth to rescue us, ask God to put someone on your heart who you can love through an act of kindness. Maybe that means taking Christmas cookies to a grumpy neighbor or a family member who’s hard to love.
When Jesus entered our sin-ridden world and gave His life for us, He demonstrated how vastly He loves us. In the safety and fullness of His love, we can love others with action.
One of my favorite stories in the Bible is in Luke 7:36-50. In this passage, Jesus was dining at a Pharisee’s home when “a woman in the town who was a sinner” (v. 37) came in and washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and her hair. Then she anointed His feet with perfume. About this brave act of love, Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; that’s why she loved much. But the one who is forgiven little, loves little” (v. 47). The woman expressed her love for Jesus in a vulnerable and extravagant act. She was able to love much because of the love she had received. We can do the same.
Praise God I have been forgiven much! And out of that forgiveness, I can love much. I can express my love for Jesus by loving others with tangible action, and so can you!
Excerpted from Advent: The Weary World Rejoices by Lifeway Women. Published by Lifeway Press®. © 2019. Used by permission.
Advent holds significant spiritual meaning for Christians as we reflect on Christ's birth and what it means for our lives, not only at Christmas but year-round. Over five sessions in Advent: The Weary World Rejoices by Lifeway Women you will learn how to:
- Fuel your worship of Christ with a deeper understanding of Advent.
- Grasp God’s character and His work on behalf of His people, in the past and present, as a catalyst to a more intimate relationship with Him.
- Learn how to practically extend joy, hope, peace, and love to others during the holiday season.